THE in-house inquiry committee set up by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra to look into allegations of corruption against a sitting judge of the Allahabad High Court in the Medical Council of India (MCI) case contains certain “adverse remarks” against him.
The allegations which prompted the inquiry pertain to Allahabad High Court judge Justice Narayan Shukla granting permission to certain private medical colleges to admit students after an MCI ban, and also involved the rulings on the case in the Supreme Court.
Sources told The Indian Express that the report of the in-house inquiry committee, submitted to the CJI, contains “adverse remarks” against Justice Shukla, who was also mentioned in a preliminary investigation conducted by the CBI last September. The CBI, sources said, is keen on seeking the CJI’s sanction afresh to file an FIR against Justice Shukla.
The Allahabad High Court judge had come under the spotlight after he made hand-written corrections on September 4, 2017, to his own bench’s order of September 1, so as to allow a medical college in Uttar Pradesh to admit students for the 2017-18 session. This was eight days after the Supreme Court had barred the High Court from allowing the Lucknow-based GCRG Institute of Medical Science to admit fresh students for the academic session 2017-18.
As per sources, the report of the in-house inquiry committee, comprising Madras High Court Chief Justice Indira Banerjee, Sikkim High Court Chief Justice S K Agnihotri and the Madhya Pradesh High Court’s Justice P K Jaiswal, was submitted by Chief Justice Banerjee, the senior most member of the panel, to the CJI in Delhi last weekend (January 20-21). The committee conducted a non-judicial fact-finding inquiry, where Justice Shukla was given full opportunity to defend himself, but no examination or cross-examination of any witnesses was allowed.
As per practice, only the Chief Justice is usually privy to the report of an in-house inquiry committee. But as his order instituting the inquiry explicitly stated that “A fair and proper inquiry will reassure the parties that justice will be done to them and the public at large will be confident that the outcome of the inquiry will be just and reasonable”, it is believed that this report could be made public or at least shared with other judges of the Supreme Court.
Sources told The Indian Express that on September 6, 2017, a senior CBI official had approached CJI Misra, along with the evidence that the agency had, to seek his permission to file an FIR against Justice Shukla. The CBI evidence presented to the CJI included transcripts of alleged telephone conversations between retired Odisha High Court judge I M Quddusi, middleman Vishwanath Agarwala and B P Yadav of the Prasad Education Trust. (Extracts from the transcripts were published by The Indian Express on January 16, 2018.)
The Chief Justice, sources said, refused to grant the permission, which has been recorded in writing by CBI officials on the noting.
Consequently, the CBI moved ahead with a PE into the matter, which was filed on September 8. The PE, portions of which have been accessed by The Indian Express, states that “Source has informed that Shri I. M Quddusi approached Hon’ble Justice Narayan Shukla, high court of Allahabad at Lucknow bench for managing the matter. Source has also informed that Shri I.M Quddusi and Shri B.P Yadav met Hon’ble Justice Shri Narayan Shukla in the morning of 25.08-2017 at his residence in Lucknow regarding the matter and delivered illegal gratification”.
On September 19, 2017, the CBI filed an FIR against Quddusi, Yadav, Agarwala and others for allegedly bribing senior public functionaries, but there was no mention of Justice Shukla.
Sources said that the submission of the in-house enquiry report with certain adverse remarks against Justice Shukla validates the findings of the CBI, which is keen on moving a fresh proposal for the Chief Justice’s sanction to proceed against the high court judge.
The in-house inquiry deals with the case of 32 medical colleges to be barred by the Union government from admitting students for medical courses for two academic years starting from 2017. This followed an MCI report on their substandard infrastructural facilities and failure to meet the required criteria. However, since August 2017, some of the colleges have been granted relief by both the Supreme Court and Allahabad High Court.
Finally, on September 18, a bench of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice refused to grant approval for renewal of recognition of the colleges in the MCI case for the academic session 2017-18. Further, it directed the MCI to send a fresh inspecting team to the colleges to assess their eligibility for admitting students for the 2018-19 session.
It was the constitution of a bench on the plea of senior advocate Prashant Bhushan (who was calling for an SIT in the MCI case) by Justice J Chelameswar that had stirred a hornet’s nest in the Supreme Court last year, with the Chief Justice cutting short the hearing of a Constitutional bench to overrule the order of Justice Chelameswar. He went on to reconstitute the bench, and asserted his powers as ‘master of the roster’.